God is the great writer. You are also a great writer.
Or you could be.
You are writing the story of your life. But what if you are not telling a good story?
What if, dear friend, you are telling a sad story, a tragedy, a stuck in a rut story?
You are never going to get to rewrite the story of your life, but you can change the plot.
I used to joke with Andrew that if he dies I would stalk and eventually marry my favorite (then unmarried) author Donald Miller. He would then reciprocate the threat by telling me that if I died then he would marry the hot donut lady at Sun’s Donuts. Fair enough.
Donald Miller wrote a number of books but my two favorites are Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The latter of the two quite literally changed my life. Miller discovered in the process of editing a book about his life that he, ironically, wasn’t really living a very compelling story. He took a class about the process of film writing and in that class he learned that the elements of a good story are this:
the main character wants/needs something and has to overcome an obstacle to get that thing.
If Hollywood was pumping out movies about people who loaf around the house, going to boring jobs and falling asleep in their crumpled pajamas, they would go bankrupt. We are looking for good stories. And I think that is because we are meant to live good stories.
This got me to thinking. Am I living a story that I will be proud to tell my grandchildren about some day? Am I doing the things I dreamed of doing or am I quitting long before the danger of success comes round?
I have been stuck lately. Caught up in a cycle of depression deflation and doubt. Like my feet are in the mud and my brain is in a fog. I have become angry in my prayers and impatient for something to happen. I have told God that I am ready for his next call of action, I am so ready to do what he wants me to do.
Unless it involves more waiting.
Unless it involves more patience.
Unless it involves more uncertainty.
I am so sick of waiting. I want to go. I want to go do something. I long to fulfill the strange, wild calling I know he has for me. But still all I hear is;
write some more
something really big is coming
In all of this anxious prayer I have learned something. I can’t claim to have stumbled upon this on my own. My dear friend, Kristi, occasionally contacts me and has a word for my life. This particular time, she knew that I was restless and impatient for direction. Rather then rebuking me for my audacity to question the God of the universe she said this:
I would say that you don’t need to be reserved in your emotions towards God. If you’re upset or impatient with Him, that’s the point where His power will be perfected in you. He knows you’re human, Amy, and He wants you to separate you from your own strength so that you’re fully His and stronger and even more beautiful (if that’s possible! You’re such a beautiful woman of God!!). In any event, from what I know, it’s not a sin to be emotional towards God about life. Look at the Psalms! And Job did pretty well. He was rebuked where he stumbled, but it was the discipline of a loving Father who restored him right after the rebuke.
This smart woman hit me hard with a huge dose of kindness. Right after reading her words of wisdom, I was so relieved that God wasn’t going to smite me for my emotional tirades that I felt free to read the Bible without feeling bitter. I cracked open my daily Charles Spurgeon book and what should I read but a gentle word about waiting on the Lord. He spoke of how painfully difficult it is for believers to wait on the Lord. It is so much easier for me to have a task, to march into battle, than to wait in patience. Unroll the map of all of your troubles and why they are so difficult to endure, then wait with passionate patience on him to resolve those troubles. Don’t be surprised if your prayers aren’t answered until the last moment of your endurance.
There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take.
Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption?
No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid … and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord.
Not long before this, my husband shared with me a snippet of a conversation he had with the pastor of our little church here in Massachusetts. He was sharing his frustration, same as my own, that God has made it pretty clear that we are not free to go back home to California nor are we free to settle down in this sweet little community we have found ourselves in. I am totally paraphrasing here (so if you are reading this, wise pastor, give me grace), the pastor said that is sounds like we are still on our journey (maybe he said wilderness) and that we are in a waiting place. But rather consider this a hallway to anxiously pace around in, consider it a hotel to relax in. This altered my thinking; my fear of settling into a town we were not called to stay in has given me fear of making friends, being connected. Because I have been operating in anxiety, I have missed the point. God has given my family a break in the storm and yet, I have been treating this time of rest like a trial. Yes, we have problems but our blessings far outweigh our trials right now. Three years ago, I was carrying my sweet infant while pulling a heavy oxygen tank behind us. Now that little one is raising hell (imagine I said “H-E–double-hockey-stick” if you please) and giving us a run for our money.
And that is where I get to living a story.
I have been living a pretty exciting, if painful, life for the past three years. There is so much work involved in keeping our son alive and healthy, holding our family together. And then that time we were blessed to travel the country for a year. I had hard work to do. Purpose. But here we are sedentary and wondering where we are called to next.
In all of my frustrations about being still, I forgot to live a good story.
I was living a sad, mopey little story.
Gently, God tells me his promise for me:
But didn’t you know, precious,
you are the one my heart loves?
Don’t tell a sad story.
Tell a story that makes us smile
TOGETHER when we laugh in each other’s eyes
when we are finally together
like we should be
when we tell our story to each other
and remember the things we did
the life we lived.
The story we wrote together.
In your little life, the one that doesn’t feel like it could possibly hold significance, are you writing a good story. Are you doing something brave or kind or good? Are you hiding from a really great narrative that could make you more alive then you knew possible?
But let’s stop.
Let’s take our days with pen in hand and think of ways to make them really something.
As the great philosopher, Dr. Seuss, once said:
“So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’ Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!”
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What does living a good story look like in your life right now?